It’s in the Trash

Oct. 10th 2012

Ferry Farm, Boyhood Home of George Washington
Fredericksburg, Virginia

I recently went to Ferry Farm, boyhood home of George Washington to visit my favorite archeologist, Mara. When we first started finding artifacts around Belle Grove Plantation, I came to her for help in identifying and dating the pieces. We have had found some really nice dish shards and other pieces that dated as far back as the late 1700s.

Archeologist at Ferry Farm

On one of our recent trips to Belle Grove, the caretaker surprised us with a bag of “finds” he had found on the grounds. This bag was filled with lots of glass and dish pieces. Once I got it home, I carefully cleaned and separated the pieces into groups that matched or at least looked like each other. I placed them into sandwich zip bags and packed them to take to Mara.

I have shown you the pieces before, but now we have a better idea of what we are looking at. I need to confirm this, but I seem to remember a past conversation about these being found together in one area. In looking at them, Mara confirmed what I was thinking; these items could be from a trash pit.

As you know, they didn’t have trash pickup or waste dumps to carry their trash to. So in the past, they would dig a hole and fill it up with trash and then bury it. These are wonderful for archeological digs because it is like a time capsule with what they used and what they ate.

Our possible trash pit with these pieces looks to date to the mid to late 1800s. So it would have been used during the Civil War or just after! Can you image? Who used these pieces? Who ate from the plates or drank for them cups? Who handled the pieces? Was it the family? Was it a slave? Was it a Union or Confederate soldier or officer? It just really makes you wonder.

Here are the pieces again with the new information:

This is an Iron Fork. A very cheaply made fork. Mara says that the family would not have used it. It would have been for use by a soldier or slave.

These are White Ball Clay Pipe Stems.

These are pieces of leather and a Shoe Heel. The Shoe Heel has wooden pegs in them. Could this have been a child’s shoe?

This the base of a stoneware crock. It would have been open on the top and used for food storage.

These are Prosser or “China Buttons”. They are made of dust pressed porcelain. Dated around 1840 to 1960.  The white ones would have been used on under clothing or for a slave’s clothing. The brown one is a painted button and would have been used on the clothing of the family.

This plate would have been a Muffin Plate. On the back we were about to make out the makers mark. It is Greenwood China from Trenton, NJ. Dated around 1861 – 1886. It’s not in this picture, but as Mara and I were looking through other pieces of plate shards, we came across a piece of this plate and were able to fit it back.

These are animal bones. Remember I said we can find out what they ate? Here we have a Pig’s bone (the largest) Pig’s tooth (smallest just above it) Chicken Bone (short bone to the far left) and a Goose’s bone (long and thin).

This is a beer or wine bottle. It was hand blown into a mold by the glass maker.

These are Patient Medicine Bottles.

This is a Wine Bottle. It would have been hand blown into a mold.

This could be a Wine Bottle or a Mineral Water Bottle. Can you believe that? Mara tells me that back around the Civil War, bottled water was really popular! Who knew??

This is a two part piece. The large piece is part of a mirror. The smaller piece is the mouth of a wine or liquor bottle. It has a hand applied finish and would date no later than 1825!

This is an interesting find. These are pieces of Condiment Bottles! Yes, like ketchup and sauces or pickled items. Mara says that Condiments were very popular during this time and it was one of the first forms of marketing. She also showed me one piece that you could make out the shoulder on the glass. She said that it could have been a ketchup bottle. She knew this because ketchup bottle styles haven’t changed much over the years.

This pieces was pretty exciting. This the hand crimped chimney top of a kerosene lamp date some time between 1870 – 1885.

This one was cool and kind of creepy all in one. This is an Iron Nail that has need curled on purpose. Mara says it was more than likely done by a slave. She said that when the slaves came over from Africa, they brought with them their spiritual beliefs. She said that this could be part of the Hoodoo belief. She said that to them Iron was sacred and by curling it and then burying it in front of a door or window, they could keep evil out of their homes. This is really something! Just to think that a slave that once lived and served this plantation made this. What a wonderful find!!

Posted by Michelle Darnell | in Year of the Virginia Historic Homes | 57 Comments »

Life is like a box of chocolates… you never know what tea cup you may find!

Jun. 17th 2012

Brett is traveling for business again this weekend and week, so you know what that means! More tea cup and antique shopping! Since Father’s Day was this weekend, I asked my father to ride along. I have pretty much checked all the local area’s antique stores and flea markets for tea cups, so I decided to change locations. We heading up Route 17 to Gloucester, Virginia and then jumped on to Route 33 and then to Route 3 (Kings Highway), which takes us up through the Northern Neck of Virginia and to Route 301 (James Madison Highway) that takes us to Belle Grove Plantation.

Our first stop was at an antique store that Brett and I have passed many times on the way to the plantation from our current home in Chesapeake. It is located in Saluda, Virginia, just outside Gloucester. It is called the Treasure Antiques Thrift store. I met the owner as soon as I came in. Once I told him what we were doing and what I was looking for, he quickly helped me locate several cups that met my needs. He even worked out a good deal for me so we could get all of them! What a score! I did have a picture of him and the inside of the shop, but sadly I lost it along with three other pictures when I downloaded some pictures last night. (Bummer) But I know we will be returning so I can get another one next time! John was also helpful in telling us where some other locations were that we might want to hit up! And he even had a map with all the antique stores in the area that we could take with us! I knew after this, it was going to be a good day!


After we left we hit up two of the locations John had recommended that were close, but sadly one we couldn’t find. The second one, we did find, but I was only able to find one plate there that fit my needs. There was a second plate that I was on the fence about, but decided to leave it. Now I wish I didn’t because it would have matched a cup and saucer perfectly. Guess I will have to go back and hope that it’s there!

From here we headed towards Kilmarnock across the Rappahannock River. Just as we crossed the river, I sighted a small house that had a sign that read “Revolutionary War / Civil War / Indian Artifacts”. I quickly made a U-turn and headed to the house. What a great stop!


As you walk into this store, you are greeted by a Union soldier’s uniform and Indian Shirt with beading. The front room is filled with anything and everything Revolutionary and Civil War time periods. It was overwhelming. I just didn’t know where to begin. The back door opened and I looked up half expecting Mel Gibson’s character, “Benjamin Martin” to appear. The owner, Chris Trimble greeted me and helped me locate several of his prized items.

The first was a portrait of Mary Ball Washington, mother of George Washington. This was really something to see! (It was also one of the lost pictures from my download) Chris explained that it was of Mary when George would have been just 1 ½ years old. He also told us that there was a companion portrait of Augustine Washington, George Washington’s father, that went with this portrait of Mary. That portrait is located in the Smithsonian in Washington D.C. The next piece he showed us was a snuff box. He told us that it had been handed down through his family and had once been owned by Henry “Light-Horse Harry” Lee and Robert E. Lee! (another lost picture). Then he showed us two buttons from the uniform of the paymaster on the Titanic. (another lost picture-but don’t worry! We are going back!)

Chris continued to show us around looking at buttons from the Revolutionary and Civil War time periods, swords, uniforms, dish, Indian Artifacts and so much more. Chris also makes and restores period furniture. I think we are going to have to look into this when we get the furniture for the house!

We left there and head to a restaurant we passed as we crossed the bridge called “Willaby’s on the Rappahannock” for some hamburgers and a great view of the river.

Then it was back to Route 3 and up towards Belle Grove. This drive was wonderful! It was filled with small towns and crossroads. But what struck me was the fact that this was the road that great men traveled. As we made our way up, we passed Stratford Hall, home of the Lee Family and Robert E. Lee (just 20 minutes from Belle Grove) and the birthplace of George Washington (just 15 minutes from Belle Grove) and the birthplace of James Monroe (just 10 minutes from Belle Grove). We also passed Vineyards and Wineries and antique shops!

Our last antique stop was just 10 minutes from Belle Grove. It is a big red barn set up in a flea market style. I scored big here!

Then we head to our favorite candy stop in King George, Mary’s Cakery and Candy Kitchen,  where my father purchased a small bag of candy. He told me that he was going to eat just a couple, but they didn’t last long. They were pretty much gone by the time we reached Belle Grove. I knew they wouldn’t last. They are so addictive!

Belle Grove – Plantation side

Belle Grove – River side

We made a quick stop at Belle Grove so my father could see it and I could get some more pictures of the house and “Dolley”, our resident osprey.  She was being her normal self, screeching and flying around because someone was there. As she flew off the nest, I walked around to the Riverside to take a few pictures of the house and of her flying and landing back on the nest. As I walked back around to the Plantation side, something caught my eye. I reached down and picked up what looks to be some kind of pottery. So I put it in my pocket and headed back to the car.

On a closer look of this piece, it looks like pottery and it looks like it has a barnacle attached to it. The barnacle is worn down somewhat. I am thinking maybe it was in the river at one point and it washed up during a flood. I am not sure. If anyone thinks they know what it is, let me know! I would love to figure this one out.

We ended our day with a visit to Hornes  Truck Stop in Port Royal for an old fashion hamburger. Anyone that travels Route 17 through Port Royal knows about this place! One of the best stops for fast food on Route 17. And it is only yards away from the site where John Wilkes Booth was killed at Garrett’s Farm.

All and in all it was a great day. Great finds, great food and good company. So now, on Father’s Day with Brett still away, I guess I have only one thing to do… go antique shopping.

Posted by Michelle Darnell | in Year of the Virginia Historic Homes | 63 Comments »